We would like to pay our respects to John Eastley who sadly passed away in July. John was one of the founder members of the History Group in 2009 and he served the group with great distinction taking on the role of Chairman from 2012 to 2015. Alongside his wife Marian he continued to serve on the committee until 2016. Perhaps John’s proudest achievement as Chairman was securing listed building status for the war memorial in 2015. It was John who got our website up and running and he gave me great support when I took over the role of chairman from him. He loved and understood the village and its people, and we will miss him greatly.
William John Wills
On the Plains in Totnes you may well be familiar with an imposing statue to one of the town’s most famous sons – the surveyor turned explorer William John Wills who took part in the first expedition to cross Australia from south to north. Along with Robert O’Hara Burke he navigated a route across the continent from the settle areas of Victoria to the Gulf of Carpenteria. Sadly, neither of the men survived this ordeal and they have subsequently become national heroes.
What is less well known is that Wills may have been born in Totnes in 1834 but he was brought up in Ipplepen. He lived at the family home where he was home tutored by his father until the age of 11 when he was sent to school at St. Andrew’s Grammar School, Ashburton. He was there from 1845 to 1850.
The 1851 Census records him as living with his maiden aunt, Elizabeth Wills, as housekeeper and with his younger brother, Thomas James, in the Vicarage House, Ipplepen. His occupation is given as apprentice surgeon and it was known that he assisted his father, Doctor William Wills. The following year the family emigrated to Australia.
I would be interested to know more about the Wills family in Ipplepen and if anyone has further information please let me know.